Paul Merson and Gary Lineker believe Mikel Arteta should not have dropped Arsenal ace Jorginho against Aston Villa

Arsenal suffered a damaging 2-0 loss to Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with their Premier League title hopes dealt a huge blow as a result.

The visitors had the better chances and also struck the woodwork twice, and Paul Merson and Gary Lineker have both questioned manager Mikel Arteta’s decision to drop Italian midfielder Jorginho from his starting XI to accommodate Gabriel Jesus against the Villans.

“I said before the game I didn’t like Arteta’s decision with the team he picked,” Merson said on Sky Sports.

“Keep on playing the same team that wins every week, don’t have the wool pulled over your eyes for a 25-minute cameo against Bayern Munich. Jesus comes on and does well and he moves Havertz.

“They’ve won nine of 10 with Jorginho and Havertz playing where they were. It was a bench today that if it wasn’t going right, he didn’t have anyone. Usually, you have Trossard and Jesus to come on.

“He did it against Southampton last season when he left Jorginho out last season. The pressure gets to everybody. That’s where you need a Pep Guardiola who keeps cool.”

Lineker agreed, echoing the thoughts on the latest episode of the Rest is Football podcast.

“I was really surprised he didn’t play Jorginho because he’s been really good in recent weeks,” the former Everton striker said.

“Really good, and it obviously allows Rice to march more forward and he’s very good at running with the ball and breaking between the lines.

“So I was quite surprised. I think it was Paul Merson who said it was a mistake, he said it before the game. Fair play to him for recognising that.”

Being without the 32-year-old in midfield saw Arsenal struggle yesterday, and it proved costly in the end.

Arteta was hoping the changes he made would catch Villa unawares, but it was Unai Emery who won the tactical battle upon his return to the Emirates, and the Gunners had no reply to the challenges the visitors posed.

Arsenal return to Premier League action with a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday before facing Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur next.

They play Bournemouth, Manchester United and Everton in their last three games of the campaign and will need to win all their remaining games and hope league leaders Manchester City drop points for them to win the 2023-24 title.

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